File photo of Sushma Swaraj
File photo of Sushma Swaraj

Swaraj says never sought UK travel documents for Lalit Modi

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, July 25, 2015

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today asserted that she had never requested or recommended travel documents from the UK Government for Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Lalit Modi and that she had acted only to help his wife who was suffering from cancer.
"You got it right. I am saying this time and again that I never requested or recommended travel documents for Lalit Modi," she said on microblogging site Twitter.
"I left this to the UK Government to decide under their own laws and regulations. And that is what they did," she said.
"The lady is suffering from cancer for the last 17  years, This was the 10th recurrence of cancer," she said.
Ms Swaraj said that, as a Minister, she was accountable to Parliament and that was the only forum to inform the nation. "I help people every day. That too on a single tweet," she said.
She said she had accepted a debate on the very first day of the monsoon session of Parliament but Congress members were not allowing a discussion.
The Congress has been demanding the resignation of Ms Swaraj as well as of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia for having helped Mr Modi, who is currently based in London and is wanted for questioning by Indian agencies in connection with various alleged economic offences.
With the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unwilling to concede that demand, the Congress disrupted proceedings in both Houses of Parliament on this and other issues, leading to a complete washout of the first week of the current session.
Ms Swaraj had found herself at the centre of a major political storm after she admitted, also on Twitter, on June 14 that she had helped Mr Modi, whose passport had been revoked by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The UPA government had also written to the UK government urging it not to give him travel documents that would enable him to travel out of the UK.
Ms Swaraj was dragged into the controversy when The Sunday Times of London said in a report that Labour MP Keith Vaz used her name to put pressure on the UK's top immigration official to give Mr Modi travel documents.
The newspaper quoted leaked correspondence to show that Mr Vaz cited her name to the UK Home Office to expedite the case of Mr Modi, whom it described as a "mutual acquaintance". The report also said that Mr Vaz had previously offered to help Ms Swaraj's nephew to apply for a British law degree course.
Mr Vaz was then chairman of the influential House of Commons Home Affairs select committee, which scrutinises the work of the department.
Mr Modi, 49, who had successfully conducted the first three editions of the IPL, travelled to London in 2010 amid claims of match-fixing and illegal betting in that year's edition of the tournament and allegations by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of misappropriation of funds, among other things.
He refused summons issued by the Chennai Police on the basis of a complaint by the BCCI. The Indian government later revoked his passport, which left him grounded in the UK. He has always denied any wrongdoing in the IPL scam and claimed that he had left India because of death threats.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had, at the request of the Enforcement Directorate, issued a light blue corner notice against Mr Modi in early October of 2010 after he failed to appear before it for questioning with regard to allegations of violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) against him.
As the issue swirled into a major controversy, Ms Swaraj took to Twitter later on June 14 to admit that she had been in touch with Mr Modi.
"Sometime in July 2014 Lalit Modi spoke to me that his wife was suffering from cancer and her surgery was fixed for 4th Aug in Portugal. He told me that he had to be present in the hospital to sign the consent papers," she said.
"He informed me that he had applied for travel documents in London and UK Government was prepared to give him the travel documents. However, they were restrained by a UPA Government communication that this will spoil Indo-UK relations," she said.
"Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British High Commissioner that 'British Government should examine the request of Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations. If the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi, that will not spoil our bilateral relations," she said.
Ms Swaraj said Mr Vaz had also spoken to him and she had told him precisely what she had told the British High Commissioner in New Delhi.
"I genuinely believe that in a situation such as this, giving emergency travel documents to an Indian citizen cannot and should not spoil relations between the two countries," she had said.
"I may also state that only a few days later, Delhi High Court quashed UPA Government's order impounding Lalit Modi's passport on the ground that the said order was unconstitutional being violative of fundamental rights and he got his passport back," she had said.
"Regarding Jyotirmay Kaushal's admission in a law course at Sussex University, he secured admission through the normal admission process in 2013 - one year before I became a Minister," she added.
The BCCI had suspended Mr Modi as IPL Commissioner on the night of April 25, 2010, minutes after the final of that year's edition of the IPL T-20 tournament ended and served him with a 34-page chargesheet.
There were allegations against him about the investments in IPL teams by his relatives and the contracts awarded to various firms. 
The controversy had led to nationwide search operations by the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies at the offices of some of the teams as well as other companies.
Mr Modi, the son of well-known industrialist Krishan Kumar Modi, head of the Modi Enterprises group, has consistently denied all the charges against him and blamed the then BCCI adminstration for his woes.
Ms Swaraj's husband, Mr. Swaraj Kaushal, a well-known advocate, has been Mr Modi's lawyer for many years. Her daughter, a lawyer, has also been associated with Mr Modi's cases as a junior to another lawyer.

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